Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How come the mechanical engineers were able to steal a march on the Royal Society?

 The Royal Society HQ, London

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London

A few days ago the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was in the headlines - under photographs of highways lined with wind turbines and strange new "artificial trees".  The latter were poorly explained. In fact, even now, after diligent internet searches, I'm still not certain as to whether they are science fact or science fiction. More about the technological feasibility later.

For the moment, I'd simply say that I placed a comment on the Times, asking why a particular professional society with a mech' eng remit was hogging the headlines, given that solutions to global warming and climate change require an interdisciplinary approach.  I was careful to slip in a mention of the Royal Society in the list, feeling that it should be orchestrating the response from the UK's scientific, indeed engineering community too (since engineering solutions are only as good as the underpinning science).

Here's what I said...

"... one notes that these latest suggestions - which are by no means new - have come from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Might it not have been better if proposals for saving the planet had come from a broader-based consortium of professional societies, that would have included the Institutes of Biology, the Royal Institute of Chemistry, The Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Royal Society etc etc? The underlying chemistry/biology in today's press release is hardly impressive, and regrettably less-than-authoritative."
Note the date.  Today, just four days later, the Royal Society has come out with  its own position paper, with proposals that look remarkably similar to those of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  Indeed, they ask for the same pump-priming Government support to the tune of of £10m. 
So, did the engineers jump the gun, one wonders, stealing the thunder of the senior service?   Did the latter wince on seeing its apparent inertia being pointed out by your humble blogger?  I guess we'll never know, but you have to admit that it's odd that two prestigious societies say basically the same thing within a few days of each other, with an apparent breach of the expected pecking order...

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